Pack and Go and Go and Go

It seems spring and summer activities are leading to more make ahead meals to pack and go in our family.  Lately I’ve kept my lunch tote in the kitchen as we unpack from one meal and activity and repack for the next.  The weekends of swim meets and outdoor festivals along with midweek baseball games is having me get more creative.  It’s also been kind of fun and easy as long as I plan ahead.  It helps me to think outside the box or traditional breakfast, lunch and dinner and merge them together too.  Here’s a few things that have been working for easy prep and healthy meals to avoid the snack shacks and take out menus.


1. Sandwiches and Wraps

Simple to make a customize.  Having some simple ingredients on hand means everyone’s tastes are met.   My family thinks sandwiches are more special if on some type of roll or baguette.  My vegetarian daughter is always happy with a caprese – tomatoes, mozzarella cheese and basil.  While my son is a turkey, cheese and pesto kind of guy.  My husband eats anything without cheese and I’m pleased with whatever.  This has also become a fun way for the kids to make their own sandwich and we pack them all together.  Putting out an array of bread options, condiments, spreads, cheeses and meats makes it easy for assembly.


2. Pasta Salad

At my daughter’s swim meets they sell a pretty good pesto pasta.  But for a single $5 serving, I can feed my whole family the same thing.  Not to mention that the meets often sells out of food before we’re hungry.  I was inspired and I’ve been making pesto as well as other cold pasta salads with a variety of pasta shapes, veggies, cheese and olives.  I pack the pasta in the kids’ lunchbox thermos’ and in reususable containers that we can eat out of, and only require me to bring forks.  This also cuts down on trips to the snack stand where kids are tempted by other not so healthy offerings such as candy and chips.


3. Fruit and Fruit Salad

Who doesn’t like cold fruit on a hot day?  We were particularly happy to have slices of watermelon while at an outdoor play last weekend.  And this time of year there is so much to choose from: grapes, cherries, berries, nectarines, plums, etc.


4. Veggies and Hummus

If you have time slice carrots, jicama, celery, and cucumber for quick healthy snacks to go.  If you’re short on time just buy some baby carrots, snap peas and cherry tomatoes and throw them in a container with a prepared hummus or ranch dressing on the side for dipping.  Again only napkins necessary.


4. Food on a stick

Food is always better on a stick.  Think shish kebobs and fruit sticks.  I’ve been putting a variety of items on a stick to rave reviews at my house.  Even left-overs.  How about a chicken sausage, tomato, cheese and tortellini stick.  Or a vegetarian stick of veggies, cheese and olives.  The options are dizzying.  Pack a sauce like pesto (yes, we do eat a lot of it), marinara and hummus and it’s good dipping too.


5. Pancakes and Waffles

If you’re making these on the weekend for breakfast, remember to make a double batch to have on hand for on-the-go meals.  A pancake sandwich layered with nut butter makes a simple, yummy meal.  Filling waffle wholes with nut butter, dried fruit and trail mix makes people healthy and happy too.


6. Treats and Dessert

I always know there will be some kind of sweets at sports events and activities.  I am very proud that my kids do not whine for churros, donuts and cotton candy.  That is because I plan and make ahead.  I always bring a homemade sweet that my kids (and usually their friends’) like, such as cookies, muffins, or kettle corn.  When I don’t have time to make something I offer a better option (higher quality, healthier) after.  For instance we skipped the chemical laden ice cream at the carnival and went to our favorite gelato shop after the rides and games.


7. Drinks Too

Bringing your own water and low sugar drinks also cuts down on the purchase of sugary soft drinks and chemical laden sports drinks.


Don’t forget to keep it cool.  Having ice packs ready in the freezer is helpful to keep foods safe and fresh.  As is a few small bags of ice.  (I’ve found these also work well for baseball game injuries.)




While Dad’s Away…Cheese Please!

My husband sometimes travels for work.  When he’s gone from the dinner table my kids like to imagine what he’s eating.  This is pretty funny.  They’ve even taken to talk like him.  This just sounds like a low pitch troll.  These days they’re guessing pretty right on with fish.  When we reconvene, he goes over his meals and the kids decide who wins.  “I said fish!”  “Yeah, but I said salmon and that was exact!”


Since my husband isn’t eating cheese these days when he’s gone we indulge.  My vegan sister has introduced us to fake cheese like Daiya, which is not bad.  But for certain foods I’d rather just skip making it or make it when my husband is out of town.  Thus Mac and Cheese night for the kids and I.  Now this is not the box version.  We’re making real cheese and pasta (see recipe).  Usually it’s not macaroni shaped but tortelli or penne or bow tie.  Whatever we’re in the mood for.  This is a great recipe I got on Real Simple’s app, which I like for quick inspiration while shopping in the grocery store.


If he’s gone two nights there will be pizza (see recipe).  We sometimes make an extra pie for dad without cheese which can be good too.  We even like pesto with smoked salmon and capers on pizza.  But when it’s kids and I it’s a cheese pizza with olives, half pesto, half red sauce.

Is there any food you and your kids indulge in while your spouse is gone?

Here’s what I’m waiting to make next time he heads out … Lasagna Roll Ups.


Petit Appetit: Eat, Drink and Be Merry

This recipe is courtesy of Michelle Stern owner and teacher of What’s Cooking, children’s cooking classes.  Michelle is great at getting the kids involved, both having fun and learning to cook.  This recipe is fun for a large family Sunday supper or for a team of hungry kids.

Makes 12 rolls

2 cups pasta sauce, homemade or jarred, without added sugar

½ teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon pepper

1 teaspoon Italian seasoning

2 large cage free organic eggs

3 cups low-fat ricotta cheese (rBGH free)

½ cup grated Parmesan cheese (rBGH free)

2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese (rBGH free)

4 ounces fresh organic baby spinach leaves, chopped, about 3 cups

12 cremini mushrooms, sliced, about 1 1/2 cups

12 lasagna noodles (10 x 2 inch with curled edges) boil extra to allow for breakage)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Spread a few spoonfuls of pasta sauce in bottom of an 8 inch glass or ceramic baking dish to coat bottom.

Cook lasagna noodles according manufacturer’s instructions.  Drain, rinse in cold water, and lay noodles on cutting board or work surface in a single layer until ready to use.

In a large bowl, lightly beat the eggs, then stir in the ricotta, parmesan, 1 cup of mozzarella, Italian seasoning, salt and pepper until mixed.

Place a lasagna noodle in front of you. Spread about 2-3 tablespoons of the cheese mixture along the entire length of the noodle.  Top with spinach and mushrooms and sauce, as desired.

Carefully roll up the noodle and place it (with the curly side up) in the prepared baking dish.

Pour remaining sauce over the tops and between rolls and sprinkle with remaining mozzarella cheese.

Cover the dish with tented foil and bake for 15 minutes.  Remove the foil and bake for additional 10 – 15 until cheese and melted and heated through.

Kids Korner:

Michelle has some good tips for empowering children to help with this recipe:

  • Let child use an egg slicer to slice mushrooms
  • With supervision, let older children snip spinach into pieces with kitchen scissors.  Or tear into little pieces with clean fingers.
  • Give children a rotary grater to grate cheese (and protect little knuckles)
  • Have children assemble and roll lasagna rolls, and stack in the pan.




North Beach Book Signing

I was invited to do a book signing in North Beach at a great parenting resource and baby boutique called Carmel Blue.  I hadn’t been to North Beach in so long and was happy to participate in the store’s book fair to launch their parenting and children’s book section.  I always go to such events by myself but this time my five year old daughter accompanied me.  We had a great time and I used the event to show her around North Beach – the square, the cathedral, the shops, the cafes.  She was extremely patient, and even helpful, as I signed books and spoke with new and expectant parents.  She loved looking at all the baby things (great selection of unique clothing, toys and gifts) as well as the babies themselves.  She was even the big kid in storytime.  We met a wonderful grandfather of 6 girls visiting from the mid-west who was kind enough to take and email me these photos.  Thanks Joe.

We visited Caffe Roma twice, which I hadn’t been to years.  First, we arrived early for the event, so we went to tea (for me) and hot chocolate (for her).  She enjoyed seeing all the many people coming and going and all the loud banter.  After the book event I thought we’d go to Tony’s Pizza or North Beach Pizza, but she wasn’t interested.  No pizza?  I was shocked.  She wanted to “go back to the cafe from earlier”.  I obliged.  It wasn’t as bustling (which she liked), but she was quite happy with her eggpplant penne and a few italian “kisses”, aka cookies, to take home and share with dad and brother.

I love showing my kids new (to them) neighborhoods and sharing and remembering all the times my husband and I spent in the city as a couple before they were born.  It’s fun to see what’s new and what remains.  My daughter was all walked and questioned out after our North Beach work and adventure, as she fell asleep on the ride home at 2pm.  I’ll have to take my son back next time.  He’ll indulge me with a slice.



Guest Cookbook Review by My Sister…the Vegan

I’ve told you about my sister being a vegan.  Remember that Thanksgiving post a few years ago?  Yes, my sister ate bologna and McDonald’s as a child.  Which means there’s always hope and time to change your family’s diet, for health, political or any other reason.  She’s opened my eyes and tastebuds to lots of new ingredients, restaurants and recipes thru her diet.  And my family cooks and enjoys vegan meals quite frequently.  Recently I was given a few vegan cookbooks to review.  I thought it only right to give one to my sister, for a guest review.  Here’s her experience with some of the recipes she made from The Everything Vegan Cookbook by Jolinda Hackett…  (Thanks Christy!)


Nacho “Cheese” Dip which we put over nachos.  I really
liked it as it was a nice change from Daiya (“cheese”).  My husband was not as impressed as he felt it was not creamy enough and too doughy.
Lemon Basil and Articoke Pasta was another split decision
as I really liked it and my husband felt like the tomatoes over powered it (he
is not a tomato fan). I think less tomatoes and having them cook for longer
would have been better in keeping with the name of the dish.  Also very
important to use fresh herbs as I did not have fresh rosemary and the dry was
too woody.
Dairy-Free Ranch Dressing was a huge hit!  I have been looking for a good Vegan Ranch and this is it!  Used it for Mother’s Day and had guests (non-vegan)asking for the recipe.
Cookies and Cream Cheesecake is an interesting dessert.  Looked beautiful, has the consistency of non-vegan cheesecake but is very mild in flavor.  More flavorful with chocolate syrup drizzled and maybe should have added the crumbled cookies on top.  My 10 year old nephew, who is a very picky eater, liked it so that says a lot.
All and all I think this is a great cookbook as it has a lot of quick and easy recipes and I found that I had many of the ingredients already in my kitchen.  If one is considering Vegan-ism or maybe have a weekly Vegan menu these are good recipes.  Here are a couple sites to visit: